The Department of Art History recently caught up with Indigo Witt (BFA ’23) about her internship within the Education Department of the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.
Hey Indigo! Describe for us your current internship and what a day to day may entail.
The Education Internship at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture is meant to be a meaningful experience for students passionate about historical research and hands-on work in the museum field. As an intern I am responsible for leading K-12 Educational programs, digital outreach, and conducting research for my own projects. One of the workshops I lead is Stories at the Museum, which includes reading a story to a young student and showing them an exhibit that educates them on a related topic. I love having opportunities to work closely with the community, while sharing knowledge on historical information. My day to day as an intern entails working closely with Education staff in admin work, and observing tours of the museum to familiarize myself with the exhibits and artifacts this museum features.
What sparked your interest in this internship?
What sparked my interest in this internship was its emphasis on art education for students of all ages and backgrounds. All communities deserve to see themselves represented in the history and unparalleled story of Virginia. I was excited about the idea of having access to primary source documents for my own interpretations and analysis. I was also interested in learning the behind-the-scenes of the events, guest engagement, museum programming, and the variety of collections.
What project or experience has been a highlight of interning with the VMHC so far?
The highlight of my internship so far has been the Pocahontas Portrait analysis. I’ve been able to refer to primary source documents to better understand how we can teach artwork to K-12 students without ignoring historical context. The Powhatan program has improved my teaching skills while boosting my understanding of how we can improve the way we retell and present historical artworks. I’ve also enjoyed learning about the Pocahontas myth that surrounds the existing depictions in engravings and paintings.
What made you decide to major in Art History and how does that relate to your pursuit of this internship?
I am an Art History major because I see the value that art holds, not just in the Richmond community, but in society as a whole. Art is created not just for practical needs, but also for expression. Art reflects a reality filtered through human nature, it shows us how other people and cultures make sense of the world around them. This is what attracted me to be an Art History major, being able to preserve history by exploring how symbols, images show the very complex and different facets of life. I find it fascinating the many different mediums one can find throughout studying Art History. The feeling of awe, the beauty, and even the dread is amplified by the power of art. The VMHC touches on a range of topics that enhances these feelings, as the history of Virginia is immensely diverse. This reflects my core values on the importance of Art education and exposure to all, including those who don’t necessarily consider themselves artists. I am an unapologetically black woman, with a love for learning and spreading the beauty behind Art History and its influence in all our daily lives. Art History is inseparable from life, as it reflects our collective identity.
What are your plans after graduation? How has this internship impacted your future goals?
During my studies in VCU Art History, I have researched the ways in which we can refocus away from Eurocentrism, and break down racist establishments that have been upheld in art history academic spaces. Minority cultures and artists will always be my source of inspiration. While their stories hold great value, they have been silenced, distorted, and misrepresented, since nearly the dawn of art history. I aspire to shift the current narrative, by establishing how they played a significant role in the foundation of the art history canon. It benefits art history as a study to reflect on certain works as shaped by marginalized groups. As well as examining how we can educate ourselves on the reality of cross-cultural interactions in the history of art and the layers of misrepresentation that have been institutionalized. My time as a VMHC intern has expanded my knowledge of colonialism in the early Americas and how it specifically impacted Indigenous peoples. This has encouraged me to continue to explore my professional goals that involve decolonizing art history education, and uplifting different voices.
What should other students know if they are interested in pursuing a similar internship?
Other students that are interested in pursuing a similar internship, should know that these opportunities definitely require strong communication skills. Experience with professionals is vital to building a resume. The connections fostered here can absolutely turn into jobs in your future career. By just leaning into your passions, you can find yourself building lasting relationships that benefit your career long term. I recommend starting by becoming a volunteer at museums or art centers where you may be interested in interning. Then, speak with staff members, sign up for events, and be an advocate for yourself. Even if you don’t think applications are open, you’d be surprised by the network that exists in the art world. There are a plethora of programs that could be in line with your professional goals and interests. I recommend seeking out these opportunities, especially when it comes to museum education.